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Taken from Far Out Magazine (May 16, 2022)

Watch Joe Jackson deconstruct 'Steppin' Out' live

by Tyler Golsen

Joe Jackson(Credit: Alamy)
Joe Jackson (Credit: Alamy)

In the pantheon of late 1970s/early 1980s British singers, Joe Jackson is an artist with a strange legacy. Although he secured a number of hits in both the punk genre and the later synthpop boom in England, he was a more underground figure in the US. Jackson, at least in America, never quite hit the same level as XTC, Elvis Costello, or any of the other hip, intellectual former punks who embraced new wave.

But Jackson had something that XTC and Costell didn't: a top ten hit in America. With 'Steppin' Out', Jackson fully embraced an eclectic mix of jazz and synthpop that gave him a new signature sound and a number six hit to boot. While most artists falter in the face of changing genres, Jackson was one of the few who seemed to transition with confidence and ease. Jackson always sounded a little strange as a punk, but he made perfect sense as a jazzy pianist/singer-songwriter.

Featured on the 1982 album Night and Day, 'Steppin' Out' was never performed exactly the way it had been recorded when Jackson went on tour. Even from the very first tours where the song makes an appearance in the setlist, Jackson almost always performed a modified, slower version of the hit single. 'Steppin' Out' may have been bought by scores of fans, but those fans never heard the same sounds when they saw Jackson play live.

According to Jackson, that's because the original recording of the song was simply him overdubbing all the instruments. After programming a KORG drum machine, Jackson layered different keyboard parts to create the final arrangement with no guitars, basses, or acoustic drums, save for a few snare drum hits. Whenever he went on tour, Jackson always had a live band to play the punk songs of his early years and the more refined material of his later period. Despite their versatility, Jackson claimed he could never find the right band to play 'Steppin' Out' in its original form.

Until recently, that is. Starting in 2019, Jackson has occasionally busted out the drum machine and had some of his bandmates play the parts that Jackson himself had originally overdubbed on the studio recording. That meant that, for the first time in nearly 40 years, audiences were getting to hear 'Steppin' Out' the way that they had always heard it on the radio or in media.

Watch Jackson play 'Steppin' Out' in its original arrangement live down below.


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